Our Team

Cortez Watson, Jr., M.Ed., LMSA

Founder and President

Cortez is a doctoral  student in Organization Development at Benedictine University, and holds several roles at Northeastern Illinois University including adjunct professor, graduate student in Urban Community Studies and graduate assistant in Diversity & Intercultural Affairs. He holds a masters degree in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University and a masters of education with a concentration in Youth Development from University of Illinois at Chicago.  Cortez’ work examines how Hip-Hop can be leveraged as a pedagogical tool. Through the Hip-Hop FIRM, he has designed and delivered transformative programming for youth as well as for formal and informal educators. His research takes empirical data on African American boys in a myriad of urban contexts and grapples with critical questions around policy and practices within their material environment. This grappling has led Cortez to develop a conceptual model for Black Youth Development. 

Gina McGovern, PhD

Applied Developmental Scientist

Senior Researcher, Designer, Facilitator

Gina is an assistant professor at Central Michigan University. She studies the effective practices of adults who work with youth, especially those that support the development of youth’s social-emotional skills and ethnic-racial identity. She is particularly interested in how adult leaders attend to their own social, emotional, and identity development, especially as they and the youth they work with confront systemic inequities due to racism and xenophobia. 

She has served as an out-of-school time program manager, teacher, instructional coach, technical assistance provider, youth development trainer, measure developer, and researcher. 

Learn more about Gina.

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David Stovall, Phd

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Jerrell Cassady, phd